After dominating the national news in three previous debates, a dozen Democrats will gather just outside Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday evening for their party's fourth Presidential debate, coming at a time when the news focus has shifted away from the Democratic field, crowded out by controversy involving President Donald Trump, and a possible impeachment bid by Democrats in the U.S. House.
"This month was supposed to be all about the 2020 Democrats," wrote Amy Walter, a veteran political analyst with the Cook Political Report.
"Thanks to impeachment drama, however, this month is all about Trump and Congress," Walter wrote.
Here are some story lines to look for tonight:
1. Joe Biden. His son. Impeachment. President Trump. Biden has been in the spotlight in recent weeks a lot as President Trump has repeatedly attacked him - and Biden's son Hunter. Does that get brought up during tonight's debate? Does Biden bring it up on his own? Do others bring it up in a negative way to attack the former Vice President?
"Hunter, you're a loser," taunted Donald Trump at his rally in Minneapolis last night to the delight of his supporters gathered at the Target Center. Trump got personal... https://t.co/x5d3cdWe4I— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) October 11, 2019
2. This time - 12 candidates are on stage. I'll call it the Democratic Dozen. After complaints about a debate stage with 10 people, this debate will have a dozen Democrats, which may make it more choppy in terms of who gets to talk, and for how long. Let's be honest - trying to balance the time for ten candidates didn't work out that well in the first three debates. Twelve will mean some candidates might disappear for a time during this three hour event. Yes, I said three hours.
Old/new idea. Split candidates 6-6 by lot. Sit them around circular table with comfortable chairs. Skilled TV moderator acts as traffic cop—introduces topics, keeps time. Free flowing debate/conversation. Just throwing it out there. Prepared for rejection https://t.co/cgLlPPEFT4— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) October 3, 2019
3. Bernie Sanders had a heart attack. It's still sort of difficult to believe that one of the major Democratic Party candidates had a heart attack, and has been sidelined for the past two weeks - and it's not making that big of an impact on the race. Sanders spent several days in the hospital in Las Vegas, and has now been back at his home in Vermont, meaning the 78 year old Sanders will have been off the campaign trail for the past 14 days. Sanders has talked about slowing his schedule - his first campaign event won't be until a "Bernie's Back" rally in New York City on Saturday. As with Biden and impeachment, we'll see how Sanders addresses his health issues tonight; he remains a big player in the Democratic race.
The Sanders campaign announces the first event following Bernie Sanders's heart attack - "Bernie's Back" rally in NYC on Saturday. He is expected to be at the debate Tuesday but this is his first official event back on the trail.— Eliza Collins (@elizacollins1) October 12, 2019
4. What kind of audience will this debate get? Since this debate has been overshadowed by other news in recent weeks, we will have to see just how many people tune in for the Democratic Dozen. The September debate had to deal with a Thursday night NFL game, but this time Democrats will be doing a debate at the same time as the playoffs for Major League Baseball are underway. Ironically, the home team in Washington is playing on Tuesday night, which means some of the politically involved class of people in D.C. might not be watching every single debate question tonight from Westerville, Ohio.
TV viewers for the #DemDebates so far --— Medium Buying (@MediumBuying) October 9, 2019
1st Debate (Miami, NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo)
1st Night: 15.3M
2nd Night: 18.1M
2nd Debate (Detroit, CNN)
1st Night: 8.7M
2nd Night: 10.7M
3rd Debate (Houston, ABC/Univision)
4th Debate (Westerville, Ohio, CNN)
5. Gabbard, Steyer are the new debate faces. Getting enough polls and donations to qualify for the October debate, Tulsi Gabbard returns to the debate stage after missing the September debate. Meanwhile, billionaire Tom Steyer makes his first debate, after not qualifying for the first three. Gabbard had been making noise about boycotting this debate, claiming that the Democratic Party hierarchy was not playing fair. As for Steyer, not only has he qualified for this debate, but he will also be on stage in November for the fifth debate, which will be in Georgia. For Gabbard, this may be her final debate, unless she finds a way to take a dramatic step forward.
CNN release podium order for the next Democratic debate. That's 12 people on stage! pic.twitter.com/JP52FWoz3o— James Hohmann (@jameshohmann) October 2, 2019
I will be attending the debate.— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) October 14, 2019
6. Looking ahead to November. The field may well shrink for the November debate, as at this point just eight Democrats have qualified with the necessary poll numbers and campaign donors. On the outside looking in are Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Tulsi Gabbard, and Julian Castro. Klobuchar and O'Rourke need three more polls to qualify. Gabbard and Castro have no polls as yet for November. Already qualified for November are Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg, Steyer, Booker and Yang.
A trio of CBS News/YouGov polls in IA, NH & SC didn't help O'Rourke or Klobuchar, who remain at 1 qualifying poll each for the 5th debate -- 3 short of qualification. Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg, Booker, Steyer & Yang have already qualified. https://t.co/Nmt8e6aNez— Geoffrey Skelley-ton💀 (@geoffreyvs) October 13, 2019
Remember - the start of the 2020 race isn't far away.
Iowa is on February 3.
New Hampshire - Feb. 11
Nevada - February 22
South Carolina on February 29
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